In recent days, Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III has been all but totally preoccupied with the effort to get a tax revision bill through the House of Representatives, Treasury officials said. Baker and Deputy Secretary Richard G. Darman have been working weekends and lobbying members of Congress until the wee hours.
Starting Friday, Baker will leave tax overhaul behind for turkey-hunting during his holiday vacation in his home state, Texas. Baker will be relaxing in Houston and on his ranch in San Antonio.
"He'll be able to do to those turkeys what he couldn't do to the ones here," an aide quipped, referring to Baker's battle with Congress over the House Ways and Means Committee's tax plan.
A number of the Treasury's top tax experts are leaving government to enter the private sector. Ronald Pearlman, assistant secretary for tax policy and one of the chief architects of the administration's tax revision bill, will leave this month after two years in Washington to practice law in St. Louis. Baker is throwing a going-away party for Pearlman today and, according to aides, the secretary plans to roast Pearlman on his dedication to the tax-revision movement.
C. Eugene Steuerle, deputy director of the office of taxation for domestic taxation, also is leaving this month to go into private business. Steuerle has written extensively about taxation and the family, and much of his thinking was incorporated into the administration's tax plan, Treasury officials said. Steurle had worked his way up in the agency since 1974.
Treasury's revolving door also is bringing in some new people. Francis Keating II, an Oklahoma attorney, was confirmed by the Senate this week as assistant secretary for enforcement and operations, a job that involves overseeing the Customs Service, Secret Service, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and some issues related to trade and tariffs, money-laundering, and financial sanctions against foreign countries. Keating replaces John Walker Jr., who recently became a U.S. District Court judge for the southern district of New York.
Keating was a member of the Oklahoma state house and senate.
Jill E. Kent has been appointed deputy assistant secretary for departmental finance and planning, with reponsibilities for the department's budget and long-range planning. Kent came from the Office of Management and Budget.
Several Treasury officials will get some Arizona sun next month when they testify before two congressional committees on drug trafficking and terrorist threats in the Southwest. David Queen, deputy assistant secretary for enforcement, William von Raab, commissioner of Customs, Charles Rinkevich, director of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and Steve Higgins, director of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, are to testify.
Baker received a public service award this month from The Tax Foundation, a group that analyzes tax issues. Baker noted that when the foundation was established in 1937 the federal income tax system was very different from the current one, and only a few Americans worried about having to pay the top tax rate of 79 percent.
"Now it's more fair," Baker told the foundation in New York this month. "Everybody has something to worry about."